6 Maths Myths & 6 Ways You Can Build a Positive Maths Attitude

Picture of David Stanley
David Stanley

Learning_to_love_Math.jpgFor many students, maths is no fun. And it may not have been a pleasant experience at school for their parents either.

Do you have students or a child who doesn’t like maths?

According to Dr Judy Willis, author of “Learning to Love Maths, there are ways you can help make maths fun for your child. And you don’t need to be a maths “wiz” to help your son or daughter.

Dr Willis has written a great article for Psychology Today about our attitudes towards maths - maths negativity and maths positivity. In it she listed some common myths about maths:

  1.  You have to be very intelligent to be good at maths

    Everyone has the potential to achieve success in maths.

  2. It’s OK to be bad at maths because most people are

    This is an example of a limiting belief that will cause children to give up or reduce their efforts to learn maths.

  3. If your parents were no good at maths, you won’t be either

    This is not true. While some aptitudes may be inheritable, maths success or otherwise depends much more on      confidence, and willingness to try.

  4. You either have or don’t have a maths brain.

    There is no such thing as a “maths brain,” according to Dr Willis. All brains have the potential for maths success.

  5. Boys are better at maths than girls

    There is no evidence for this in neuroscience. Girls may perform maths at a lower level than boys because they believe that boys have more natural brainpower in maths. Thus girls may have lower confidence and this influences how much they are willing to try.

  6. Maths isn’t important for everyone, it’s only needed in a few occupations

    Maths is used in everyday life. And maths is vital for many of the rewarding occupations that are emerging from the digital and technological revolution.

Maths Negativity

Dr Willis says that maths negativity can come from:

  • maths stereotype beliefs
  • parental maths negativity
  • frequent failure to understand maths concepts
  • fear of making mistakes.

Consequences of maths negativity may include:

  • low participation
  • low challenge tolerance
  • falling further behind
  • behaviour problems
  • avoiding the advanced maths classes needed for success in many careers

6 ways to move your child from maths negativity to a positive maths attitude

Dr Willis writes: “Maths negativity is a stressor you can help your children replace with the pleasure, self-efficacy, motivation, and perseverance of maths positivity”.

  1. Capture their imaginations and interest in maths early.
  2. Motivate their memories of success. Remind your child of a skill they learnt through effort and persistence, even though they failed at the start. For example, riding a bike.
  3. Show children the value of the maths applied to their everyday lives, hobbies and interests. For example, when shopping, discuss how maths is used to decide if it’s best value to buy a regular pack of 6 ice blocks, or the jumbo pack of 10.
  4. Make sure you bust any maths myths they may have taken as true.
  5. Encourage children to measure, predict time and estimate distances.
  6. Don’t show your frustration if your child is not “getting’ a maths concept.

When you regularly do these activities and have positive conversations with your children about maths, they will go from “captives of maths negativity to captains of their maths minds”, according to Dr Willis.

You can read her complete article here.